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It had to open doors, not close them. It had to be high paced with a lot of autonomy. It had to be prestigious. It had to be high paying. I had tunnel vision. Success only looked this one specific way. If I didn’t get my exact ideal, I had failed, badly. My career trajectory would be permanently stunted. That was my mindset.
But I was wrong.
I began to realize that 6 months into my ideal job at Accenture when work became — well — work. I started thinking about how interesting it could be to work for a year as a social media strategist at Starbucks or on an IOT project at a small startup. Senior year me would’ve thought I was crazy! I had begun craving the chance to go into less prestigious jobs that seemingly closed doors.
But did those two jobs or the countless others I thought of really close doors? No. I couldn’t see that in college, but 6 months removed from graduation, I could. What changed? Perspective. First, I now had real experience as a consultant. I understood the types of projects and the kind of work that was done. Second, I was meeting people who weren’t in consulting as a first job, but still ended up a great companies with great careers. That might seem like such a “duh” moment, but I honestly didn’t think about it while I was stressing about my job search. My perceived sense of worth was tied to the job I got.
It’s vastly more important to find a job with great people where you will learn a lot. If you don’t get that ‘perfect job’ that screams “I AM SUCCESSFUL” right out of college, don’t worry. Instead, put in the work at that first job. Learn, build a network, develop a valuable skill that solves a real problem, become a steward in your community. Do this relentlessly for two years.
Interning, while in college, or even once you've left, is also a great way to bolster your CV and demonstrate your value to potential employers. Consider taking a summer internship, and look for opportunities to work with companies who are doing exciting work in the fields that interest you.
Then apply to work at that “dream company.” Let’s say imagine that once you get to that dream job, you stay there for the rest of your career. In a 40-year career, spending 2 years building a foundation at the beginning is pretty insignificant. There is no one set path. Your success isn’t dependent on what society thinks success is. It’s all about perspective.
photo by Anthony Tori
There are many reasons you could be an incredible employee, but an employer wouldn’t hire you. Say you are extremely smart & motivated, but don’t go to top-20 university. Maybe you even got into a top-10 school, but you couldn’t attend because of the financial strain. Maybe you needed to stay close to home to care for a sick parent. Maybe you were at a top school, but your grades suffered, because you had to also work full-time to support yourself. Some “dream companies” only recruit at certain universities. Some weight GPA above everything else on an application. Some have quotas that they need to meet. So you don’t get the job right out of college.
But two years out of school, where you went or what your GPA was matters so much less than what you think. What matters most is what you’ve done. Your results will get you anywhere you want to go.
“If there’s anybody that ever looked like you and made it, then there’s no excuse.” — Gary Vaynerchuk
So don’t sweat where you ‘land’ right after college. Students tend to place way too much value on this. Perceived success doesn’t matter, results do. It’s true some people will be impressed when they hear certain brand names, but that tends to be short lived. If you can deliver great work, and have a proven track record of doing so, the name on the side of the building you walk into shouldn't matter.